Rain and overall miserable conditions did not stop a large crowd of protesters from gathering at the University of Idaho campus to show their disapproval of a conservative pastor’s speech titled “Toxic Matriarchy.”
The weather did not deter supporters from showing up as well.
In total, roughly 400 people gathered both outside and inside the the UI’s Agricultural Science auditorium for the talk, which was organized by the Collegiate Reformed Fellowship, a campus ministry of Christ Church and Trinity Reformed Church in Moscow.
C.R. Wiley, a pastor and author from Connecticut, was the featured speaker, and Christ Church Pastor Doug Wilson conducted the question-and-answer portion of the event.
Audience members and students and groups who came to show support for women and the LGBTQ community gathered outside the building in the rain well before the speech.
Keira Terchowitz and a group associated with Planned Parenthood Generation Action set up a tent to collect donations for the UI Women’s Center.
She said her group was there to offer a “safe space for people marginalized by this event.”
Laura Gould, a teacher at Moscow Charter School, said she wanted to take part in a peaceful protest “to highlight the absurdity” of the event.
Gould said the UI claims it allowed the speech to take place on campus to protect freedom of speech, but she felt it was not doing enough to protect women or transgender people.
Before the talk, UI President Chuck Staben issued an emailed statement to faculty and staff about the speech.
“The University of Idaho is an extensive and diverse community of people from varied backgrounds and beliefs. We welcome the viewpoints and contributions of everyone in our community,” he wrote.
The email said the UI was not a sponsor of the event and the event had been organized by a recognized student group, which is why the UI made the venue available.
“We would do the same for any student group and I hope it is understood that in such cases, any views and opinions are the views of the speaker and not necessarily the views of the U of I,” Staben said in the email. “The university cannot withdraw resources — a venue — commonly made available just because a speaker is controversial.”
The event’s speaker, Wiley, even admitted he did not choose the title “Toxic Matriarchy.”
“When I heard the title, I said to myself, ‘Well, that will certainly get some attention,’ ” he said.
The talk revolved around parents, particularly mothers, nourishing their children so much that the children cannot learn to be responsible adults. He said it is possible for too much mothering to become toxic to children by making them overly dependent.
He also likened the university environment to an overbearing parent protecting students from unwanted opinions, and he criticized people for growing up to depend on the “welfare state” for their needs.
While shouting members of the audience occasionally interrupted the speech, the event went on mostly without incident. Only one audience member was escorted out after he interrupted the event by playing a kazoo during the question and answer portion.
Wiley received jeers several times in reaction to his responses to questions. Among the loudest jeers happened when he said he did not support gay marriage.
Anthony Kuipers can be reached at (208) 883-4640, or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.